Johns Hopkins All Children's scales back on surgeries, pauses complicated procedures after baby discharged with needle in heart

St. Petersburg, Fla.-based Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital is significantly cutting the number of operations performed at the facility and halting certain complicated surgeries after physicians discharged a baby with a suture needle in her heart from a surgery in 2016, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Here are five things to know.

1. The patient, Katelynn Whipple, was born with an interrupted aortic arch in July 2016. The needle was found in her heart during a follow-up visit later that month, and Katelynn's parents returned to All Children's to have the needle removed. However, the surgeon who operated on her told her parents the needle did not exist. Ten days later, Katelynn's parents took her to a different hospital for emergency operation unrelated to the needle. Within 30 minutes, that surgeon found the needle lodged in her aorta.

2. Although the needle left in Katelynn's chest did not cause any overall damage, All Children's later settled with her family for about $50,000, the majority of which will be paid to Katelynn when she is an adult. Tom Karl, MD, the lead surgeon who performed the initial operation on Katelynn, is not currently practicing at the hospital, but is on its medical staff "and could be called on upon if there was an emergency," Jonathan Ellen, MD, the hospital's CEO, told the Tampa Bay Times.

3. When asked about Katelynn's case and widespread issues with the hospital's Heart Institute, All Children's leaders informed the Tampa Bay Times of numerous issues not previously publicized, including a rising mortality rate for heart surgery patients and at least one top surgeon who has ceased operating. All Children's also acknowledged needles were left in two children since 2016.

"If I said to you we didn't have challenges, I'd be lying," Dr. Ellen told the Tampa Bay Times.

4. In response to these issues, the institute cut its number of operations and stopped performing some complicated surgeries, according to Dr. Ellen. He told the Tampa Bay Times the Heart Institute is working to improve patient care and prevent pediatric patients from being harmed. "If we found something that went wrong, we would notify our board, we would notify the right regulatory agencies, we would look at our processes," Dr. Ellen said.

5. The hospital is also referring certain complex cases to other heart programs. "We don't think we necessarily at this point are the best for some of the highly complex cases," he said. However, Dr. Ellen is still optimistic about the future of the Heart Institute and is searching for a surgeon to lead the department.

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